- The best products address a pain, and they address a pain someone has. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, it's pain that you've felt in a prior business or in a prior thing that you've been involved in. You're scratching your own itch, it's a wonderful cliche that gets used a lot. You're doing something that addresses your own pain. In my first company, when I was starting to learn how to sell the product that we had, a wise person, who happened to be a consultant that helped people understand how to sell, once said, "The best way to sell people something "is by finding their pain and then "selling a solution to their pain." And so, when you're thinking about what you're trying to build as a product, start from the frame of reference of, what pain are you solving for your customer? If you're the customer, that's easy to relate to.
If you're not the natural customer, if you're not scratching your own itch, try to put yourself in the position of the customer that you believe you're going to have. Spend real time, not just theoretically with your potential customer, but go find some real customers. Go find people who are going to buy your product, and talk to them specifically about what their pain is with existing solutions or with their existing approach to certain things. And use the word pain to underscore that is has to be significant. It's not an inconvenience, it's not an annoyance, it's not something that maybe they desire a little bit.
It's something that's actually causing them pain and frustration in their normal world. And if you can start to conceptualize what is the customer pain that your product is addressing, doesn't mean that that's necessarily how you go to market with it, it's not how you build the sales strategy around it, but it helps you define very clearly the precise characteristics of what that product is, so that you're actually addressing something that really matters to your potential customer versus something that's just on the surface.
So, there's a couple of different ways to go figure out what your customer's pain is. The first, and the easiest, is if you or people that are directly connected to you in your network are the customer, you're already feeling the pain; and so, being really introspective and thinking hard about where the real pain is and then experimenting by building little mini products, right, prototypes of what you want to do to address the pain to really see if that pain is what you think it is. It's one thing to think about it in your brain; it's another thing to try to create something that solves a problem.
Once you start trying to solve the problem and address the pain, you say, oh, well, you know, yeah, I thought that was big deal, but it wasn't quite that, it was really this. And so, the mere act of starting to do something for yourself, if you're the one that feels the pain as the customer, will help you get more precise on the idea. The other is literally go find customers or people you think are going to be customers, and there's going to be different archetypes. You'll have some customer archetypes that, or a customer archetype that's really easy to identify. You're like, oop, that's the customer right over there.
Then you'll have somebody like, eh, maybe that is the customer, not quite sure. You want both of those, you want the really easy, sweet-spot customer that's totally obvious that they're the ones that have what you perceive as the pain and then others who could be the customer because what you're looking for is not validation, just a check mark that, yep, that's the pain. What you're looking for is a feedback loop with a potential customer to help you identify and hone the product and the opportunity more clearly to address their pain. An interesting thing comes out of this a lot of times if you can get three or four or five different archetypes of potential customers, is that you can actually build a more general product that solves more specific pain points rather than a very narrow product that solves one pain point.
At the very beginning of your company, if you have a significant enough pain point, one product that addresses one pain point's enough. But as you're building your business and you're scaling your business up, you're going to want to extend it to other things. So, having that context of what the universe of problems your potential product can solve, even if you choose and focus on just one of 'em, is really helpful context as you're getting started.
- Define “shiny object syndrome.”
- Identify your customer’s pain.
- Determine the scalability of a product.
- Recall the best time to initiate customer acquisition.
- Review the differences between a passionate employee and an obsessed employee.
- Recognize the benefits of domain experience when building a founding team.